Thursday, November 30, 2006

Grub Street goes bush

Clancy didn’t go droving, he hasn’t even seen any cows. The closest I’ve come is some very dry ‘cow-pats’ in a droving feed paddock. But I know they’ve been here… However, I did think some might be interested in this strange place I have landed in.

Miles is located 339 km west of Brisbane and 307 m above sea-level. It is situated on Dogwood Creek which was named by the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt when he passed through the area in 1844. Leichhardt was one of Australia’s intrepid explorers.

The town developed in 1878 when the railway from Brisbane ran into troubles crossing Dogwood Creek. The delay meant that railway workers settled in the area. Shops, stores and pubs were established, and, for a short time, it became the railhead for supplies to the west.

There is a massive population of around 2,725 in the whole municipal area, and 1100 or so in the town itself. Like the rest of the country, we are in the middle of a very serious drought here. While the country once supported dairy herds it’s getting difficult to run anything on the depleted grazing ranges, certainly not dairy herds. Goats would probably do well.

But the town is in for a growth spurt. It’s not the agriculture of the past, but coal mining and natural gas. Apparently the coal bed starts just meters under our feet here and is very deep. They are talking 1.3 million tonnes per annum when the open cut mines are operational.

The gas production has a promising by-product for the region – water. Apparently it is good quality and will be diverted to the town supply.

Being on the edge of the outback here internet connectivity is a problem. I’m working on dial-up, which is very slow and patchy. There is talk of a decent broadband service in the future, at the moment the closest thing is an expensive ADSL service which isn’t much faster than dial-up.

So progress is on the way to this town that is miles from anywhere. I’m not sure I’m all that excited to see more coal being added to the energy production mix, but I won’t be here when that happens.

The new water source from the gas drilling will provide the base for ex-urban development. Water is always going to be the limiting factor for growth in these regions.

The temperatures are really hard to take, having so recently arrived from western Canada. Some nights get down around the mid 70s, but every day seems to climb close to or over 100. On a recent typical day it was 100 in the shade and up to 120 in the garden shed.

Winters, I am told, can get down to around 20f, but they don’t last very long. Global warming contributes to these colder temps because of clear night skies with no wind.

Today I started celebrating clouds – but then saw a blood red sun and realized it was smoke. When I googled bushfires I found that the fires where in NSW, on the central coast, 1000 miles or more south of here. Apparently something called an inversion layer was sucking the smoke north. It is truly an amazing country.

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